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Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on this blog are free of gluten, peanuts, soy, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, shellfish, cane sugar, oranges, and yeast. Most recipes are also free of egg, dairy, and tree nuts (if used, reliable substitutions will be provided for these when possible). Check out my recipe index for a full list of recipes by category. 

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Monday
Feb082010

Cabbage & Celeriac Winter Slaw (gluten free, vegan, raw, ACD)

I have a confession to make.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by superfoods.

Seriously, I can only handle so much trendy food. I don't want spirulina or chlorella or maca in everything I eat.  Remember when everyone was head over heels for pomegranate juice about 5 years ago?  Then acai hit the market.  Now everyone is nuts over chia seeds and maca.  Or camu (what is that anyway?) or lucuma (again, what?).  Not that I'm against this stuff, per se. I'll try anything, I love new flavors, and I'm a sucker for foods that are packed with nutrients.  But every time I put an $8 bag of goji berries in my basket at the co-op I ask myself, "Are you insane?" This fancy bag of funny dried berries, as delicious as they are, don't even come close to making a meal, nor do they have anything to do with my local food economy.  My $8 could be much better spent on an entire bag of vegetables or a whole organic chicken.  Multiple meals from locally produced ingredients vs. one bag of goji berries shipped from who knows where...what would you choose?

AH! Crisis of dietary conscious!

Generally, I find myself buying the gojis anyway, tempted by their bright red color and sweet tart flavor and crazy vitamin C content and comparitively low sugar count.  But I think raises interesting questions about the place of non-local, non-seasonal, hard-to-come-by superfoods in a whole foods kitchen.

When I buy obscure powders and fancy ingredients shipped from half way across the world, am I really supporting a sustainable, low impact lifestyle? What am I really paying for - hype, or legitimate nutrition?  Is it about the experience of eating this superfood or is it about how it really makes me feel?  Or, more likely, is it about being part of a market-driven culture of health-driven foodies who will pay top dollar in the hope of achieving ultimate well-being?  Does it even make sense for me, a genetically northern European person, to be indulging in these foreign delights as a source of nutrition? Does my DNA even know what to do with it?  Is it possible to get just as much beneficial nutrition from things that we have in our own backyards, comparitively speaking? That is what our grandparents did, after all. And those farm folks were healthier than most adults now, I'm willing to bet.   If cabbage was good enough for my grandma, it is good enough for me, right? 

To be fair, I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to buying specialty ingredients imported from afar. For example, I love sea vegetables, and I live nowhere near the ocean. I have Himalayan pink salt and Hawaiian red salt and Indian black salt.  I relish in imported Spanish saffron. I would cry for days without a bottle of high quality important Italian extra virgin olive oil.  My favorite coconut oil is straight from the Philippines (by way of a Minnesota-based distributor).  I am a product of a global food economy; I enjoy world cuisine and all the delights it has to offer on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, our local food economies are often not set up to be completely and totally supportive of a locavore lifestyle.  Making the choice to live completely locally and seasonally is HUGE, and I am nowhere near.  However, I try to support this idea as much as possible.  Most of the foods that make up the basis of my diet are, in fact, local. I buy local vegetables whenever possible, only buy locally-raised poultry and red meat, and try to get other locally grown ingredients whenever I can, from grains to spices to beans.  I try to eat seasonally.  I grew my own food this summer and preserved farmer's market purchases through canning and in my freezer.  I try to make responsible choices with intention. But I'm not militant.  I have those gojis in my fridge and mesquite flour on my shopping list, after all.  

I guess what I'm getting around to is that I want food that is simple. Ideally, I want it local. I want it to just make sense, in harmony with nature and seasons and energetics grow zones and all that stuff.  I want to feel that it is linked to tradition.  I want it to feel like home. I want to see what I'm eating, I want it to be obvious.  I want to know where it comes from.  I don't want to have to rely on fancy powders extracted from roots grown in obscure corners of the earth I will probably never visit in order to get my nutrition.  I have food right here in my own state that can give me what I need.  Transparency in ingredients is part of why I eat this way, after all.  So why should I willingly overcomplicate things with ingredients that I don't understand?  Especially if it really doesn't even taste good (come on, really, does anyone like the taste of spirulina?).   

And for these reasons, among many more, I adore vegetable slaws.  It allows the vegetable to shine through, simple, easy, unadulterated, pure.  No cooking, just some chopping. Maybe a drizzle of olive oil or an easy dressing. Fresh, lovely, crisp. 

For this slaw I chose to use some tired-looking (local) green cabbage from my crisper and a particularly gnarly bulb of (local) celeriac.  I love digging out homely stuff from the crisper and making magic.  This slaw has a distinct celery flavor, thanks to a the combination of celeriac and celery seeds.  It makes me think of eating coleslaw at family suppers at my grandma's house as a kid.  This is nothing like her coleslaw, but it makes me think of her.  Finished with a bite of ground mustard and the tartness of umeboshi plum paste, it is a tasty accompaniment to any meal.  Best yet, it is ready in less than 10 minutes.  

And you want super?  Cabbage is an awesome source of vitamin C and is naturally antimicrobial, and aids with detoxification. Celeriac is loaded with vitamin C, phosphorus, potassium, and fiber.  Celery seeds are naturally diuretic, helping to rid the body of excess fluid, and are naturally anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic. Umeboshi plum paste has long been used in Japanese cuisine as an appetite stimulant and detoxifying agent, and it is naturally alkalizing.  

Okay, okay, so the umeboshi plum paste may be a little fancy.  It is expensive. It has nothing to do with my heritage. And it was shipped from far away. But it is delicious. 

Hey, I've always been contrary, even unto myself.  

 

Cabbage & Celeriac Winter Slaw

yields approx 4 cups

1/4 head smallish green cabbage, shredded (about 2 cups)

1/2 medium celeriac bulb, shredded (about 2 cups)

1/2 tsp celery seeds

1/4 tsp ground dry mustard

1/2 tsp vitamin C crystals (or maybe around 2 Tbsp lemon juice?)

2-3 Tbsp olive oil

2 tsp umeboshi plum paste

freshly ground pepper & sea salt

Grate the cabbage and celeriac using the large holes of a box grater, and put in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk together oil and umeboshi paste, then add mustard, vitamin c/lemon, and celery seed.  Pour over grated veg, and stir to mix.  Add pepper and additional salt as desired, and serve.

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Reader Comments (6)

I seem to be on a root veg kick myself these days, and celeriac is top of the list (not sure if it's local or not. . .) ;) I am definitely going to try this! And, just for the record, I actually DO like the taste of spirulina!

February 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRicki

Yay for the root veg, local or not! I like lots of things but for some reason too much spirulina just makes me want to gag. A little goes a long way for me :)

February 9, 2010 | Registered CommenterKim @ Affairs of Living

I too have a problem with superfoods: why would goji berries be more nutritious than blueberries or broccoli, which are also superfoods packed with nutrients.
There's always big money involved behind each new trendy ingredients coming from faraway lands and I'm not quite sure it's that sustainable after all. See what's happening to quinoa in the Andes, the little grain has become so popular (making some farmers rich almost overnight) that the farmers have empoverished their soil with overfarming (and it's already tough to grow stuff over there with an arid & poor soil). The result is that the locals can't even afford their ancestors' food and staple grain (store bought pasta is cheaper) and I fear that in a near future, the Andean populations won't even grow enough quinoa to sustain themselves (you can grow your own quinoa in your garden - there are a few seed suppliers selling quinoa seeds though I'm sure you can just spare a few in your kitchen - but so far I've been out of luck).
As a gluten free person I surely was happy to find quinoa (which I have been eating less) but I'd rather support the eco-farmed rice varieties grown by Lundberg (in CA, where I live) for example.
Anyway there are a lot of very nutritious veggies, fruits, grains & other edibles out there to not need to depend on exotic berries. The "superfood" label is very smart marketting, so that people can forget about the humble heirloom cabbage and buy the lucuma (or whatever else there is to sale).
And the nutritional content can be boosted via soaking, sprouting & fermenting so if it was good enough to keep great-grandmother going, it should be good enough for me ;)!
Not to mention that some herbs can be brewed into very nourishing teas (rich in vitamins & minerals)...

February 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlchemille

Your post is like the post I have in my head all the time! Very well put. And this slaw looks super tasty and I'd love to try celeriac raw (I've only had it cooked and pureed a la potatoes). Yum!

February 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterA-K

Bravo, you said it! Although I do often buy into the hype (literally, unfortunately for my bank account) I know exactly what you mean, and agree that the whole "super foods" thing has just gone too far. Aren't just about all whole fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds super foods anyways? There's a whole treasure trove of nutrients at our finger tips being ignored!

February 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

I'm a huge sucker for veggie slaws, Kim, and this looks delish! I tend to take the lazier route with veggies + canola mayo, so I'll have to give this a try.

I love what you've said about superfoods, nutrition trends, and local economies. I've been doing a lot of Trader Joe's shopping to stick as closely to my food budget as possible, but to be honest there's a big part of me that would prefer to be buying everything locally. I actually just made up a little list to carry with me so I can compare the prices of produce and meat across different farmers markets here in NYC. And I've finally made the switch to buying in bulk (will be writing about it soon I hope!) which makes me feel all sorts of good from a budget and ethical standpoint. :)

Next on my list is learning to make my own pasta and fermented foods. Though I don't think I'll ever give up my spirulina. Green Vibrance is amazing!

February 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKim
Sorry, no comments/questions allowed right now.
Hi reader! My schedule as full-time grad student with two part-time jobs doesn't allow me the time to manage comments. I hope you enjoy what you find and can figure out answers to any questions you may have. xo